As furloughs loom for airline industry, aircraft mechanics still needed for parked planes

Airplanes are grounded across the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the week ending August 23, domestic air travel is currently down 67%. International air travel is down 87%, according to Airlines for America.

Rui Leonardo is the president of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association Local 32 which represents 1,100 mechanics, many of them in Phoenix.

Leonardo says constant maintenance on airplanes should keep them working.

"When you park an airplane and it's not being utilized, that aircraft still requires maintenance. It requires three-day checks, seven-day checks, 14-day checks. It requires storage checks. There's a whole bunch of stuff where we as maintenance people are still being required to do," Leonardo said.

But the unknown is approaching. American Airlines alone says it will have at least 40,000 fewer employees after October 1 compared to pre-pandemic numbers.

Of that amount, 19,000 are involuntary reductions. The rest are workers leaving on their own. 

RELATED: United Airlines will furlough up to 2,850 pilots without more federal aid

Leonardo points to companies outsourcing work overseas as a problem.

"They could actually reduce their outsourcing and bring some of that work back for our guys here."

In mid-May, the percentage of U.S. passenger airline fleets sitting idle peaked at more than 50% per A4A. 

Leonardo hopes the public gets back to traveling soon but it may take more time.

"I think it's going to take 18 months for really the flying public to come back on board and feel safe."

Several labor unions are pushing to extend the payroll support provisions of the CARES Act through the end of March 2021. 

Sixteen Republican senators, including Martha McSaly, have backed another $25 billion in aid.

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